2017-09-27

A flexible venture

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Amy Wolfe, owner of Studio SouthWest, shunned the corporate world of Toronto to eventually open a yoga and fitness centre in Liverpool.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Studio SouthWest aims to offer 20 to 30 scheduled fitness classes a week.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The major investment for Studio SouthWest has been in fitness equipment, such as TRX resistance trainers.</p>

Yoga has become a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide, and Canadians are among those increasingly latching on to this growing trend in physical fitness and well-being.

But for many of the owners of businesses serving the market, the bottom-line is not the end goal.

Amy Wolfe had been aiming to be a lawyer. But having a taste of the corporate world in Toronto, she set out on a completely different path and ultimately opened Studio SouthWest in Liverpool.

"I think of it as a fitness and an exercise studio. I know I'm a business owner. But I am an exercise scientist. To me, it's all about fitness, and improving health and wellness. And offering whatever I can to people.

"So I approached [the studio] as an exercise professional. I tried to keep it really basic so I didn't get overwhelmed with the business side of things," she told LighthouseNOW.

Wolfe arrived at opening the studio nearly four years ago "a long way around."

Having obtained an initial degree in history at the University of Ottawa with the thought of becoming a lawyer, and while working in Toronto, she became certified as a personal trainer.

She returned home to Brooklyn about 11 years ago, enrolled in the recreational fitness program at Eastern College in Halifax, wrote an exam through the American College of Sports Medicine, and got a term-contract job working as an exercise physiologist at Queens Place Emera Centre.

She explains that an exercise physiologist "deals in exercise science - how best to use the body, move the body, to achieve a better level of fitness, based on cardiovascular parameters, muscular parameters and flexibility training."

When the maternity-leave position at she was filling ended, inspired by yoga teacher training she had taken previously, she struck out on her own.

"They really get you thinking outside the box and exploring yourself a lot, what you want to do and how you want to live your life. I did all this training. And I knew moving back to the South Shore there weren't going to be many opportunities in my background. So I thought I had to create my own, and see how it was going to go."

Wolfe says she recognized there were certain things she wanted to offer the community.

"And so that's when I went out on a limb and decided that I would have a fitness and yoga studio."

The non-profit group, Sahaja Yoga Meditation, owns the location on Main Street Wolfe chose for the studio.

"I figured I wanted to be on Main Street - the whole thing about trying to revitalize the main street of Liverpool, and I wanted to be a part of that. That was the main goal," says Wolfe, adding that the space "worked well, price-wise."

There was little that had to be done to create the type of studio she was after, other than add bars for the TRX resistant training she would offer.

Wolfe made a sizable investment in fitness and yoga equipment, including the TRX resistance trainers, Kettlebells, yoga mats, foam rollers, and yoga props such as bolsters and blocks.

With the wellness of community members in mind, Wolfe said she wanted to target as broad a public as possible.

"That's why I chose all sorts of various methods for offering fitness to people ... A stand-alone yoga studio, I didn't think, would just fly. There needs to be more offered to draw in a broad range of people."

At the same time, she was aware that to make it financially viable the service needed to appeal to both women and men and a spectrum of age groups.

"So that was what my goal was at the time. I needed to cater to as many people and bring them into my studio as possible and so I can show them all the various forms of fitness that you can do."

Wolfe says she's maintained her original goal of offering 20 to 30 scheduled classes a week, including both personal training and group fitness.

"In summer, when it's a little slower, it goes down a bit. But in peak season, such as September to June, I always try to keep between 20 and 30 classes in the schedule."

She sets a minimum number of four per class.

Her clients range in age between 30 to 60, but she has had some who are in their 80s.

Each class largely has its own demographic, with chair yoga attracting mostly seniors, for example.

"Hot power yoga, that's going to be more like 30s and 40s."

Studio SouthWest charges $10 a class.

"Thirteen dollars for drop-ins, but most people are buying punch cards [for multiple classes] and purchasing sessions," adds Wolfe.

However, Wolfe recognizes that the broader economic demographics of the Liverpool area pose a challenge in terms of potential market, and getting clients through the studio door. For that reason, she's also made Studio SouthWest training available at schools and seniors' accommodations.

"So, you know, trying to get out there in the community as much as possible, which is something that's always been important to me," says Wolfe.

After all, in yoga, being flexible can pay off.

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